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Education and 
 Research in 

Finnish education system provides many routes to the professional world of libraries.

Ari Haasio
Lic. of Soc. Sci and M.A.
Principal Lecturer

Ari Haasio
Loans, university of applied sciences libraries, 2011.
Finnish Public Libraries Statistics
he Finnish education system is composed of nine-year basic education (comprehensive school), upper secondary education, comprising vocational and general education, and higher education provided by universities and polytechnics or universities of applied sciences. Adult education is available at all levels.

The qualifications for different occupations in library sector are provided by both vocational education and higher education in universities and polytechnics. The Library Act and Decree (1998) define the necessary qualifications for staff in public libraries. This guarantees that the employees working in all our public libraries are professional and adequately educated. The Library Act and Decree do not cover research libraries that have their specific requirements.

According to the Library Act, at least 70 percent of Finnish public library personnel need to have professional qualifications. It is also a precondition for a permanent office. The directors of municipal library systems or library branches are required to have a university degree that includes studies in library or information sciences. To be qualified as a librarian one needs to have either polytechnic or university degree that includes at least 60 ECTS points in library or information sciences. Those who have graduated from vocational or apprenticeship programmes are qualified to work as a library assistant in public libraries.

History of library studies
Individual activists in library field, the Society of Popular Education and the Finnish Library Association founded in 1910 all promoted library education in the beginning of the 1900’s. At first it meant organising courses that lasted a few weeks at longest.

In 1945 the education was provided in the Civic College which held the first lectureship in library science. The year-long education gave basic skills and knowledge for aspiring librarians who had passed their matriculation examination.

Since 1960´s commercial school graduates could also specialise in library work as assistant librarians.

In the beginning of the 1970´s University of Tampere received the first library and information sciences professorship in Finland and it became possible to take a masters degree in social sciences majoring in library science.

In 1995 library and information sciences changed its name to information studies. In 2010 it merged with hypermedia department, and a new subject of information studies and interactive media was created. Now it is possible to specialise in other than library-related subjects, as well. Students can, for example, choose courses in game theory as part of their curriculum.

University of Oulu also offers higher education in information studies in Finnish. Åbo Akademi University in Turku is responsible for education in Swedish. Professorship in Oulu was established in 1988 and in Turku in 1982.

In addition to bachelor and master’s degrees all three universities provide licentiate and doctoral degrees. The post-graduate studies have increased especially since the 1990´s.

When the Bologna Process was implemented, the intermediate education was transformed into new polytechnics. It also meant that a bachelor degree could be taken not only in universities but in polytechnics, as well. Polytechnics or the universities of applied sciences in Oulu, Seinäjoki and Turku offer degrees in library and information services.

Universities emphasise scientific research and theoretical thinking and provide students an opportunity to become a researcher. The polytechnics, on the other hand, have a more pragmatic standpoint: in addition to theory students engage in practical exercises and aim primarily at employment in libraries.

Choosing university studies in information sciences opens career opportunities also in web services development, information services, commercial and media archives and IT management.

Extensive research
Library research has naturally been concentrated in universities providing library sciences. The most extensive research activity can be found in University of Tampere where the emphasis has been on internationally recognized subjects of information seeking and information retrieval. University of Oulu has studied, for example, information management and in Åbo Akademi University the interest has been on, for example, questions about social media and Library 2.0.

Polytechnics are not participating in general research. Instead they lead many development projects and prepare reports that serve the library community in a more pragmatic manner.

Learn what professor Maija-Leena Huotari thinks about Finnish library education and research.